They were a distraction that peeked in through the darkness less than 10 years ago. The 2001 New York Yankees, lifting up a battered city during a cathartic post season run that ended with defeat.
The Yankees and the Mets were there in the days following 9/11, meeting rescue workers and their families, offering an ear and, at times, a shoulder to those who needed to let loose.
You remember it more in times of extreme tragedy, that sense of community that still exists between a pro sports team and its city. We saw it with the Saints in New Orleans and the Yankees and Mets in New York. Today, however, the Yankees organization seemingly forgot.
Things have changed greatly in the last decade, with the Yankees becoming more corporate, more antiseptic. They no longer play in a charming relic but rather a polished museum. George Steinbrenner is gone and Joe Torre is no longer with the team, both replaced by the less emotional Hal Steinbrenner and Joe Girardi.
The Yankees officially remembered 9/11 before today’s game with the Baltimore Orioles; making team leaders Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera available to talk about their experiences during the tragedy while asking team employee Hank Grazioso, who lost his two sons in the towers, to throw out the first pitch. The team also invited several wounded veterans from Walter Reed Medical Center, Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld onto the field for a tribute where they were greeted by a single team representative, Nick Swisher.
Swisher is, among other things, someone who possess the enthusiasm of five men. However, he is only one man, and not someone who was with the team during that horrific September nearly 10 years ago. Now I don’t know if the Yankees had planned something grander that was disrupted by the weather or if it was put off because the Yankees had played into the early morning the night before. I don’t care.
No excuse stands as valid, no puny sacrifice that players and other personnel would have had to make to walk out onto that field comes anywhere near the sacrifice that these true heroes know, heroes who deserved to be saluted and publicly acknowledged by everyone from Derek Jeter to Jesus Montero.
After years of witnessing the pomp that follows a so called “Yankee Moment” or achievement great and small; the level of celebration affixed to Old Timers Day or the retirement of a beloved long term employee, one would think that the Yankees organization could muster more than a PR stunt for those most affected by 9/11.